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Chin Opposes Schools Chancellor Pick – Writes Letter to State Commissioner

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Several members of the City Council are introducing a resolution calling on the state education commissioner to block Mayor Bloomberg’s choice for schools chancellor. District 1 City Councilmember Margaret Chin is among them. She has also sent a letter to David Steiner, the commissioner, explaining why she believes granting Cathie Black a waiver would be wrong. See the full text after the jump:

Dear Commissioner Steiner,

I am writing to express my opposition to the granting of a waiver for Ms. Catherine Black, Mayor Bloomberg’s choice for New York City Schools Chancellor. I know that you are receiving a number of comments on this issue, so I appreciate you taking the time to review my letter.

The rules of the Mayoral Control law, recently re-authorized by New York State, are both clear and compelling. NYC Chancellors are required by the law to have three years of teaching experience as well as have completed 60 credits of graduate coursework in the field of education. In other words, they should have a background as educators. However, a waiver may be granted to “exceptionally qualified persons who do not meet all of the graduate course or teaching requirements of subdivision one of this section, but whose exceptional training and experience are the substantial equivalent of such requirements and qualify such persons for the duties of a superintendent of schools[i].” It is my firm belief that Ms. Black in no way meets the high threshold set here in the Mayoral Control law. While she may have an impressive background in corporate management, this experience does not qualify her either for a waiver from your office or for the leadership of the intense and complex educational system that is the New York City Department of Education.

Mayor Bloomberg contends that the 135,000 employees of the DOE are sufficient to handle the pedagogical tasks of the Department, and that the Department’s substantial budget and bureaucracy require a corporate manager rather than a professional educator. I would point to the literally thousands of multi-billion dollar educational institutions in this country and those in this City as evidence to the contrary. Certainly, the professional educators and career academics who successfully manage America’s colleges and universities seem able to balance management and instruction; why should the children of our public school system be any different?

There are numerous other arguments that can and have been made regarding Ms. Black’s appointment. Arguments against her include the fact that she did not attend public school, and that she sent her children to out-of-state boarding school; that she does not represent the diversity of the public school population; that the search process from which she emerged was anything but the “public” and “open” one Mayor Bloomberg described; or that she currently serves on the board of a troubled charter school. And there are a number of arguments to be made in support of her appointment, chief among them that she would be the City’s first female Chancellor. However, none of these concerns is relevant to the decision before you: whether or not Ms. Black is qualified to serve as Chancellor of the New York City public school system and whether she should be granted a waiver based on her “exceptional” qualifications as a corporate manager. I believe she is not qualified, and should not receive a waiver from your office.

The educational requirements of Mayoral Control were placed there for a reason. I strongly urge you to deny Ms. Black a waiver on the grounds that she does not meet the stated requirements, and that you ask Mayor Bloomberg to find a truly qualified candidate for Chancellor who has both the management skills and the pedagogical experience to appropriately lead New York City’s school system.

Margaret S. Chin
New York City Councilmember
District 1 – Manhattan

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